Beets for Dog Health

There is a lot of debate about how much dog’s can benefit from vegetables. It is 100% true that their digestive systems were designed for meat. That being said, they also are meant to receive vegetables pre-digested from prey and definitely sometimes used to eat fruit whole. I’ll go more into vegetables in general in another post. For now I want to assume that they can access at least some nutrients from vegetables, especially when prepared properly and talk about why beets can be so beneficial.

Beets and especially beet greens are an incredible resource of nutrition that you can easily add to your dog’s diet (as well as your own!). Although it’s already become a popular dog food additive, this is mostly for filler reasons and profit margins, because the processing involved takes away almost all of the nutritional value. In many cases also, they are using sugar beets which are even cheaper and have absolutely no nutritional value. (Beets or beet pulp is actually a good thing to look out for and avoid in food!)

The two best options for beets are fresh or freeze-dried. Never canned or pickled.

The primary reasons people choose to add beets to their dog’s diet is for liver detox, allergies, inflammation, iron deficiency or weight management, but these are only a few benefits they offer.

The great thing is that because they are so packed with nutrition, a little goes a long way so you don’t need to use a ton of them! (This is good because too much could lead to red tinged diarrhea.)

Red tinged urine on the other hand, should not be an issue because in a balanced diet, this most likely will not occur. The same thing happens to people. Pink urine indicates a lack of hydrochloric acid in the digestion process. This is not dangerous and some digestive enzymes or a good probiotic should prevent it if it becomes an issue. Pink urine and stool can be a scary thing to see and this is the reason many companies that use beets properly (like Darwins) has removed them from their food. It is not dangerous but it is startling.

The general suggested amount is around 1/8 c.

Beets are full of antioxidants, vitamin C (immunity), vitamin B folate (cardiovascular support & normal tissue growth), manganese (helps bones, kidneys, liver and pancreas), fiber (aids digestion), iron (aids formation of healthy blood cells), potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function), and magnesium (bone health and nerve function).

Some dogs with issues such as allergies, inflammation or anemia can benefit from these properties but dogs with diabetes should probably stay away. Although beets are low in calories they are higher in sugar than other types of vegetables and may not be good for this reason. (An important note here however is that unlike other high glycemic index items, beets have a LOW glycemic load, so contrary to intuition they are still moderate in terms of affecting insulin levels making them still a great weight loss tool.) The greens however, would work just fine!

I’ve read a lot of articles and it is still unclear to me exactly how well beets are digested and absorbed in the digestive tract. I looked into the different ways to prepare them, for this reason and still could not find any one method that out-shined the rest. I already know that fermentation is the best way to allow the unique digestive system of dogs to absorb nutrients. I am in the process of learning how to do that, but now I try to do the next best thing which is to purée.

The idea is that the further broken down something is, the easier it’s absorbed. The important thing is to break the cell wall to release nutrients. The finer grind purée the better. Feeding this along with an enzyme supplement or probiotic that contains amylase is my go to solution when I can’t get fermented.

This is because dogs don’t have salivary amylase (what breaks down the cell walls in fruits and veggies so the nutrition can be released). They do have some amylase in their pancreas but not very much overall.

Cooking, freezing and pureeing are all ways of breaking the fruits and vegetables down into a more usable form.

I know this works well for spinach for example. It’s also true of beet greens. For lack of further evidence, I will assume it’s also true of beets. They lack fiber this way, but hopefully add more nutritional value. After fermented (not jarred) Raw or puréed seem best. Cooked is the next best after that and is easier for some dogs to accept. Juiced is usually ok for leafy greens but in this case it is not good because of the release of sugar.

I can definitely see myself using them as healthy treats because the fiber is filling and my dog needs to lose a few, but for meals, I primarily use the beet greens with one raw beet as just one ingredient in a big purée. I also like to change up my purée ingredients a lot to add variety. If you supplement with beets to treat a certain condition, it’s always best to get dosing information directly from a holistic vet.

Beet greens are high in protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, copper, and manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

Beet greens contain more iron than spinach, improve immune function and help protect bone health.”

The compelling reasons listed here are good to consider because while hard evidence regarding digestion is still lacking for this particular vegetable, if they can be fed in a way that they are absorbed, they would be a tremendous resource. This is from dogtube:

“5 Reasons to treat your dog to red beets

1. Beets are believed to lower blood pressure – The natural nitrates in beets covert to nitric oxide which relaxes and dilates blood vessels improving blood flow and blood pressure.

2. Fight Inflammation – Beets contain betaine, which “helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.” (World’s Healthiest Foods)

3. Anti-Cancer Properties – It is believed that the Phytonutrients in beets may help prevent cancer.

4. Detoxification Support – The betalain pigment in beets cause toxins to break down so they can be eliminated from the body and help purify the blood and liver.

5. Beets boost stamina – Thought to be the result of beets reducing the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.”

To me it sounds like this is geared more towards people, but there is no debate that beets are good.

This all brings me to the reason I decided to write this article:

Yesterday I was ecstatic to find out that my local pet store had the highly anticipated Answers Turkey Stock with Fermented Beet Juice! I’ve been waiting for this one! First, because of their fermentation process, that unlocks nutrients and maximizes the benefits of everything they make. Second, because red BEETS are included now!

I will still use the greens and some beet on my own, because this is only beet juice, but with this product I am more confident that my dog is benefiting from the beet. This is exciting because beets have a lot to offer!

* For a good freeze dried treat style option I love Olewo for their dedication to quality! (Sold on Amazon, chewy etc)

Finally, a wonderful article on vegetables for dogs is written by Dr. Dobias

Here he explains more about which vegetables dogs can benefit from the most! (Note *The feeding guide fermentation he mentions here is not the same as the process we make.)

Beets are below their greens, but they’re still on the list!

Here is a good quick list of useful veggies (I leave out peppers)

And here is just a quick way to remember which beets are best for dogs (the only really bad one is the sugar beet – the one that looks like a bull’s eye)

The highly anticipated new Answers product:

The Truth About Garlic

Garlic has been on every “what not to feed” list for dogs that I’ve ever seen. Like most people, I just assumed this was correct and left it alone. That being said it was also in a TON of dog supplements that we see every day. At first, I just assumed that these supplement makers just somehow magically changed the deadly garlic into something safe and extracted the benefits, but this didn’t change the fact that any other garlic was still unsafe.

This literally could not be further from the truth.

The real reason garlic is on these lists is because (just like avocado) it can harm some animals but not most dogs. It’s added as a precaution if overdose occurs or if the dogs that shouldn’t have it have too much. It’s also on the list because of studies done exclusively on garlic extracts, excessive doses or garlic mixed with other things, NOT on normal amounts of fresh raw garlic.

The other reason people fear garlic is because garlic is part of the Allium family (along with onions). This means it contains aliphatic sulfides (propyldisulfide and thiosulphate to be exact) which can damage red blood cells. Because this damage is often without symptoms it can become a concern with prolonged use. HOWEVER, the actual AMOUNT of thiosulphate present is so much less than in onions, it’s often untraceable.

It’s a heated debate but the evidence of harm is severely lacking and in proper use cases, I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence proving any cellular damage whatsoever.

In my opinion all this means is that large amounts and pro-longed use are important guidelines to keep in mind but not reasons enough not to use it.

What dogs should not have garlic?

-Dogs with anemia or who are scheduled for surgery

-Dogs with a compromised digestive tract (it could exacerbate symptoms such as IBS or leaky gut)

-Dogs on certain medications (immune suppressants, heart medications etc.) The prescribing vet will know for sure.

-Dogs with diabetes

-Puppies

-Pregnant mothers

-Japanese dogs such as Shiba Inu’s and Akita’s (I know this sounds crazy) The reasons are still not 100% clear but it has to do with their digestive system and how they break down certain things.

In these cases, small amounts should still be no reason for concern, but if your worried it’s always best to call your vet!

What makes garlic so beneficial?

Why bother with an item that has been so controversial? Because it’s an absolute POWERHOUSE when it comes to benefits. People who have years of experience and success using it have a staggering number of explanations why. A few of them are listed here.

Garlic Properties and uses:

-Antibacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-parasitic

-Immune system enhancer

-Detox – liver and digestive tract; breaks down waste before it enters the bloodstream

-Digestive enhancer – helps the body absorb nutrients, supports beneficial bacteria, eliminates harmful bacteria and balances the digestive system

-High in vital nutrients such as: vitamins A, C & B, Calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, germanium, amino acids, inulin, sulfur, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.

-Decreases cholesterol

-Improves circulation and organ function (especially lungs, large intestine, stomach and spleen)

-Prevents tumors

-Prevents blood clots and widens blood vessels

-Stimulates lymphatic systems to remove waste

-Cancer prevention and treatment – ongoing studies are proving this more and more!

-Natural tick, flea and mosquito repellant (after daily doses for at least 2 weeks)

-Dewormer

-Topically for Ear infections and ear mites

That’s a pretty big deal so now,

How to safely add Garlic to your dog’s diet:

-ONLY use fresh, organic WHOLE shelled garlic from a trusted source (never jarred or dried because this voids the value)

-Always peel and mince, cut or crush directly before use (it’s suggested to then let it stand for 5-15 minutes at room temperature before serving to maximize the benefits. These activated benefits last for about an hour.)

This has to do with a reaction that takes place within the garlic. It’s not dangerous to serve garlic you chopped yesterday for example, but the active benefits won’t be nearly as effective.

-Always follow dosing guidelines.

*I often mix some in with puréed vegetables, (not ideal for benefits but a lot of people do it) I pre-measure it in this case, but I also don’t stress because my dog would need more garlic than she could ever eat to actually make her sick.

Dosing is everything

The general rule of thumb here is:

• 10 to 15 pounds – half a clove of garlic

• 20 to 40 pounds – one clove

• 45 to 70 pounds – two cloves *many stop at two for all weights but some add

• 75 to 90 pounds – two and a half cloves

• 100 pounds or more – three cloves

Or

  • 1/6 tsp for 5 lbs
  • 1/3 tsp for 10 lbs
  • 1/2 tsp for 15 lbs
  • 2/3 tsp for 20 lbs
  • 1 tsp for 30 lbs

Many people also recommend rotating one week on, one off, or every other day. I also use slightly less than the recommended dose.

Conclusion

I am still wary of the health warnings but try to stay on top of new research. So far hard evidence of harm seems to be lacking… significantly. One recent development was that the “major” study that supplied the information about garlic causing red blood cell damage, (that flooded the internet!) was done on literally four dogs that were given very high doses (25 cloves for a 50 lbs dog per DAY!)… plus afterward it was determined that they were totally fine. So… so far the benefits seem to outweigh the concerns and the holistic community has been using it for a very long time with great success.

We tend to use garlic seasonally, when I want to give my dog an immune boost but I know a lot of people who use it daily. As always, it is best to ask a holistic vet about holistic things, plus one who knows your pet.

It is definitely something to consider especially with winter coming up!

Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Flax-meal, Fish oil and Biotin for Dog Health

These are all common dog supplement additives, especially those involving skin and coat health. Knowing a little more about them can allow you to do what I did: either buy the human versions and make my own or make sure the supplements I look at contain a high enough amount of quality sourced ingredients to make them worth buying. It’s also just good to know what to look for in a supplement.

BREWERS DRIED YEAST is rich in Mega fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants. It enhances health, aids with flea control and improves the immune system. Improving skin health and coat shine, while reducing itchy dry skin helps minimize shedding due to inadequate nutrition. The B vitamins help with nerve function and stress management, reducing anxiety and balancing hormones including those related to adrenaline and epinephrine.

FLAXSEED meal provides Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, necessary for good skin and coat health. It aids in making the coat softer and shinier, with healthier skin underneath, while providing dietary fiber. In addition to the omega fatty acids, it contains alpha-linoleic acid, which offers benefits to the immune system. Alpha-linoleic acid also has an anti-inflammatory effect which may help if there are any joint problems. Lignans in Flaxseed contain antioxidants.

(Flaxseed oil or meal is not high enough in these omegas to replace Fish oil.)

FISH OIL with OMEGA 3 & 6 (dogs can’t use 9) EPA DHA

Fish oil can greatly improve skin, coat, joint, kidneys, heart, and immune system health. Fish oil contains two essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA. Both are Omega-3 fatty acids that can only be made in a limited capacity in dogs.

EPA acts as an anti-inflmmatory. It will help with any condition that cause inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin and joints. It will ease inflammation due to allergies, and reduce itchy skin and dandruff and is used to treat hot spots. It promotes a shiny, healthy coat and reduces shedding.

DHA is important in brain, eye and neuron development. This fatty acids affects cell permeability and the growth of nerve cells which is important for optimal development.

Both EPA and DHA are important components of cell membranes. These unique fatty acids act as signals in cells to decrease inflammation. Less inflammation leads to less pain, redness and swelling in the skin, joints and other organs.

Source matters here because fish oil can contain mercury and other toxins that are much more dangerous for dogs than they are for people.

BIOTIN is a water soluble B vitamin that is essential for protein and fatty acid metabolism. Some common names for biotin include vitamin B-7, Vitamin H and coenzyme R. Biotin supports a healthy nervous system, skin and coat.

We only use Biotin every day.

Spirulina, Chlorella and Kelp for Dogs

These are all health powerhouses that have been clinically studied and proven helpful to dogs. They are ingredients in an all-in-one supplement we use called Green Min

Prior to finding this supplement, we have bought them all separately as well. I have studied spirulina extensively and found that getting a quality source was not only important (contaminants can be more dangerous for dogs than for people) but somewhat difficult to find. It took so much effort because it was one of the ONLY supplements that needed to NOT be organic. The process of making it organic is actually detrimental to the quality in this case. It also needed to be from Hawaii. I found a few but when I found green min I finally felt 100% good about the source so that’s the bottom line reason I use that. I have some other brands as back up or to increase the dosage (down side of an all in one) but I’ve yet to find a share-worthy brand. The best ones I’ve found were unaffordable for me so I have no experience with them. If that changes I’ll definitely share it! (Chlorella and Kelp were easier and I have some, but again, using the green min I’m at a loss of brands that I might want to promote.)

A basic run-down:

SPIRULINA is one of the most complete sources of essential nutrients on the planet. Abundant in chlorophyll, essential amino acids, omega oils, beta-carotene, and other phytonutrients that nurture, cleanse and detox. It is a complete protein source, containing 60-70% protein, B-complex vitamins, phycocyanin, vitamin E and numerous minerals. It contains antioxidant and inflammatory properties and improves endurance. One of the richest sources of chlorophyll rich foods in the world, it helps remove toxins from the blood and boosts the immune system which reduces allergies. It has been proven to improve fatigue, anxiety and depression in humans and has been shown to have a similar calming and balancing effect on dogs. It contains ten times more beta-carotene than carrots. Clinical studies have shown it to reduce tumors and prevent the formation of cancer cells. It absorbs and removes heavy metals and other toxins. It is a great source of essential fatty acids critical for proper function of the brain, nervous system, tissue and cell regeneration and healthy coat and skin.

CHLORELLA is an immune booster, gastrointestinal aide and detoxifier. It is also rich in chlorophyll and contains a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and high levels of protein. What makes chlorella unique is what’s called the chlorella growth factor which is rich in nucleic acids. Nucleic acids are hugely important in slowing down the aging process and boosting health in dogs especially as they age. Other benefits include the detoxifying benefits of destroying toxic build ups left over from things like pesticides, herbicides, vaccinations, unhealthy food, chemical pest preventatives for fleas, ticks and heartworm and environmental pollution. Exposure to these toxins can wear on dog’s organs so eliminating them is important in preventing chronic conditions that can appear later in life.

KELP contains a rich natural mix of salts and minerals (including iodine, magnesium, potassium, iron and calcium) which help keep your dog’s entire glandular system, the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland as well as the thyroid gland, (the glands that regulate metabolism), healthy.

Kelp helps reduce dental plaque and tarter buildup in dogs. This is due to a bacterium that resides within the kelp that releases an enzyme that breaks down the plaque coating the teeth. It is rich in iodine, a chemical element necessary in thyroid health. It reduces itchiness due to allergies and other skin conditions as well as repel fleas. It improves the general condition of the skin and coat. It is high in iron and calcium which improves the ability of blood to distribute oxygen to the cells. This helps dogs heal faster and helps prevent arthritis and other bone condition. The amino acids support tissue repair and improves longevity.

Coconut Oil and Dog Health

Coconut oil is truly one of nature’s greatest gifts to us. It can be used internally, externally (and even around the house). So much has been written about coconut oil, it’s almost like, “ok already, tell me something coconut oil CAN’T do!” and I get that. It all gets very redundant so I’m going to be brief because honestly I’m not going to come up with anything unique. Just at a glance, in reference to dogs, COCONUT OIL aids in nutrient absorption and digestion, improves skin and coat, elevates metabolism and thyroid function, reduces allergies, prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections, is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent, heals hot spots, speeds wound healing, improves cognition and increases energy.

What I want to focus on is quality. You can use different qualities for different things. For toothpaste (great results), paw butter, sunscreens and wound care I use almost any solid organic coconut oil. As a daily diet additive though I only use organic virgin cold pressed liquid coconut oil with MCT standardized to 95%. The most valuable component of coconut oil is MCT content. When a company doesn’t clarify this percentage it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad but it doesn’t cost any more to find a brand that does so I always do. MCT (or MCFA) stands for medium chain triglycerides. MCT is made up of Lauric Acid, Capric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Myristic Acid and Palmitic. Coconut oil also contains about 2% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and about 6% oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acids).

“Lauric acid has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. Capric and caprylic acid also have similar properties as lauric acid and are best known for their anti-fungal effects.

MCTs are efficiently metabolized to provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, enhancing athletic performance and aiding weight loss. In dogs, the MCTs in coconut oil balance the thyroid, helping overweight dogs lose weight and helping sedentary dogs feel energetic.”

So in short, it’s all about the MCT’s.

The final thing I want to mention is amount. Some people get scared off when they give their dog coconut oil because they get diarrhea. This is just a sign that their system isn’t ready for that amount. The rule of thumb is 1/2 tsp per 10-15 lbs body weight. You can do more or less, this is just a general suggestion. It’s best to start out with 1/4 tsp or less as your dog adjusts to it but this should happen quickly. My dog is 25 lbs and we now use 1/2 -1 tsp daily in her food. (I’ve accidentally used more with no bad reaction.) Amounts can also vary depending on use, or what’s being treated, this is just maintenance or a health booster for a generally healthy dog. We’ve never had skin or allergy issues so we’ve never used it to treat that but I know so many people who have with great results. I even used the would healing balm I made for her recently on myself and I healed faster with that than from any injury I’ve ever had, so I know it works.

Coconut oil easy to over look because it’s so popular and over marketed but it’s worth remembering because it can do so much for you and your dog’s health! These are only a few quick reasons and things to keep in mind. This article goes a lot further into the subject.

Health benefits of coconut oil

(The images below are not brands I’m recommending just helpful photos)

The Truth About Poop!

Dog poop is one of the quickest, easiest health barometers there are! I’m not ashamed to admit it, I look forward to my dog’s poop every day! It’s like a daily vet consult because there is SO much information found there. This is less true for dogs that eat the same kibble daily because their poop usually doesn’t change, but it works for them too. The biggest difference between kibble and raw fed dog poop is the amount. Kibble is mostly filler so it creates very large stools where as raw fed dogs’ absorb more and poop less. They also smell less. Otherwise the recognizable signs of health issues for each are the same.

Raw fed dog owners tend to pay much more attention to their dogs poop, (especially when they make their own food) because like their diet, it changes everyday. There may not be huge differences when the diet and digestive track is healthy but they still vary to some degree. This list is a quick reference guide to the most common things to look out for. There are more advanced lists but it’s a good place to start. Understanding poop goes hand in hand with understanding diet. When you can recognize what the poop is “saying” you can know how to adjust the diet before the next meal.

Poop Color and Action to take

White – too much bone, lack of nutrient absorption or old poop

Yellow – Parasites or bacteria

Orange – food coloring (or carrots) but could be blood tinged

Red – blood from large intestines or anal area

Brown – normal

Black – Digestive blood CALL THE VET

Green – Gi Hypermotility, bile not fully digested

Mucous – secretory or detox response (if the mucous is ‘wormy’ though call the vet!)

Blue or Aqua – Rat poison or toys

Grey – The right amount of bile isn’t being produced (could be a sign of EPI or Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency)

This list is from keep the tail wagging and there are many more.

Hopefully most won’t happen but it’s good info. As a raw feeder I mostly look out for white or brown and the consistency.

Poop should be firm and moist. Too much fat or organ is usually dark brown and too mushy. I’d fix this by using less organ and more bone. Too white, next meal less bone. So on and so forth. I have yet to see anything outside of these 3 (brown, dark brown & runny and white) but I keep my eye out for yellow and green for sure.

Diarrhea is something that happens to almost all dogs at some point. In our case I would examine her last meal. Sometimes we just can’t identify the source for sure and sometimes it’s just adjusting to a new food. Color and hydration should be monitored and if it doesn’t pass, call the vet, but it usually clears up in a day or so. Some things that may help are:

Adding bone to raw food

Slippery Elm Bark

Pumpkin

Probiotics

Olewo dehydrated carrots

There are many VOLUMES written on this subject, this is just a quick reference and reminder to value your poo! 😉

Another great idea for raw feeders especially, is to keep a meal journal. That way you can link the poop directly to the meal and make adjustments easier for the future. It would also come in handy if you ever needed to see the vet!!

Here are a few more charts but there are a ton out there.

Here is a link for more info:

Dog poop assessments

Happy pooping!

Raw Feeding 101 and How To Find The Best Raw Food Suppliers

While I really don’t think learning how to correctly feed raw is as difficult as people might think, finding the right raw food sources can be absolutely DAUNTING! (I am particularly strict about my sources so it does not have to be this way for everyone!)

There are two basic models that people follow (BARF and Prey) that I’ll discuss more in another article. The most common and simple raw feeding guidelines are: 80% meat 10% bone and 10% organ (usually 5% liver and 5% offal aka a secreting organ) In the beginning, it doesn’t have to be perfect and you learn over time what works best for you and your dog. Balance is the goal but in the beginning we all just do our best, the important thing is to start. You don’t have to learn everything in one day or have it all figured out before hand, nature kind of has a way of teaching us what we need to know as we go along. Dog poop is the best indicator if there’s too much or too little of something and we’re lucky because we get this daily 😉 The easiest place to start is either with pre-made raw (links below) or with simple protein choices such as chicken and beef. Then you can be a little experimental. The important thing is, anytime you add something new, just read up on it and soon you’ll have a whole book full of knowledge just based on experience. You don’t have to worry about remembering everything or knowing it before hand unless your dog has certain health conditions to watch out for. Variety is very important and is the key to avoiding most problems.

I chose to home “cook” so I learn everyday. Today for example, I learned that beef trachea can lead to hyperthyroidism (especially when you combine it with necks, feet or green lipped mussels) This is because the thyroid is often left attached and unless you can cut it off, your dog will be getting too much of the secreted thyroid hormone and if you feed a lot of it over time it can lead to problems. In small doses it’s a GREAT joint supplement because of the glucosamine and chondroitin levels, so it’s shouldn’t be avoided but it’s just one thing to look out for. I’ve also learned a lot about how long it takes to thaw meat …I’m bad at it lol, but all of these things come with hands on experience. It’s a learning process, it can be overwhelming if you decide to make the food yourself but if I can do it, anyone can!

To start, I want to dispel the myth that raw feeding has to be expensive. I can honestly tell you that I am not someone with resources. I have the same amount of money as I did when I bought kibble so everything I talk about on here is coming from someone with a very small budget.

Like everything, our journey to raw didn’t happen over night. The first dog I had all on my own literally found US out of the blue one day and all of a sudden I was a brand new dog owner. I had some background in human health issues but none in dog health. Our first stop was the vet for obvious reasons because she came from the streets of Miami and we wanted to make sure she was OK! Luckily she was and no one claimed her so I was blessed to be granted with the gift of being her mom. One of the biggest jobs of any mother is providing food, so I asked my vet what the best food was. She said Science diet… . I’ll admit I bought this once but fortunately learned very early on that this wasn’t only a bad food but one of the worst on the market. I did some research and the next step we took was Honest Kitchen . I am very grateful for this because I still feel like it’s a good quality food. I’m also grateful because I know how expensive premium kibble can be and it would have been an absolute waste. I got some Origen occasionally which I think IS the best kibble and it still doesn’t compare in quality. We did that for a while and then one day she just stopped eating it… like entirely! At the time I was super busy so I resorted to cooking her organic chicken etc and just adding it so she would eat at least a small portion and get a balanced diet. One day I finally just decided this had to stop because she wasn’t getting a wide enough variety of the things I knew she needed. I decided to really take the time to commit to finding her the best food for her. I discovered after reading countless volumes of evidence on the subject, that doing that meant only one thing: raw food. From that time forward, we haven’t looked back. I set out on the path to make that happen and that has brought me to where I am today.

Because I knew the danger of raw food is not parasite related but balance related, I tried to learn all that I could about what that meant. (I should add here that balance is only a problem over time, in the short term transition, it is perfectly safe to introduce raw meat slowly. Some days are more perfect then others and dogs systems are set up to naturally balance as long as they get what they need over time. In the wild they didn’t get perfect meals and they skipped days getting food (it’s actually good for them), so while balance is a big deal long term, it should not scare people from trial and error.)

It wasn’t too complicated, just very important. To err on the side of caution, I decided to start with a company that took the guess work out, came from a reputable source and was readily available in my area. That lead me to Steve’s real food and Answers. Answers, as a company truly blew my mind because not only were they 100% ethically sourced but they had come up with a solution for unlocking the key ingredients in food that’s usually lost because dog’s don’t have the ability to extract nutrients from certain things like vegetables. Their fermentation process literally unlocks the foods full potential (meat too) and because they use such high quality sources, this was a very big deal! They even have incredible and unique supplement products like raw goats milk and fermented fish stock, that use the same process and provide superfoods in a way like no one else in the industry. PLUS they were SO affordable, I was literally in shock when I heard the prices. They deliver to my local pet shop so no shipping fees and no having to order ahead of time! I was in love (and still am) but alas our journey wasn’t quite over yet because my dog just wouldn’t touch it. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up, I know it takes time and I will go back to it eventually for supplemental feeding, it just made me decide to cast a wider net of resources.

* Fermenting is not the only method but it’s one of the best because it’s the most similar to how the dog would receive vegetable nutrients from an animals stomach in the wild and helps maximize the digestive process at the same time. One side goal I have is also learning how to ferment my own vegetables. This way I can be sure of ingredients and benefit by eating it myself. It’s still far off but when I get there I’ll post about what I did to do it!

*Another easier method is blending or food processing. The important thing is to break the cell wall to release nutrients. The finer grind the better. Feeding this along with an enzyme supplement or probiotic that contains amylase is my go to solution when I can’t get fermented.

(Dogs don’t have salivary amylase (what breaks down the cell walls in fruits and veggies so the nutrition can be released) they do have some amylase in their pancreas but not very much overall. Cooking, freezing and pureeing are all ways of breaking the fruits and vegetables down into a more usable form.)

SIDE NOTE: When Answers comes up, often Darwin’s does also. In my eyes it’s a company very similar to Steve’s (the other pre-made raw food I tried) so it’s the main reason I haven’t tried it. I think it’s a good company also, just not one I could get without a subscription. That along with the fact that I didn’t see any outstanding reason to use it (or any other pre-made) is why I’m not going to. I know they offer a trial but I was only looking at things I could pick up locally. Steve’s was my backup for answers (that she wouldn’t eat either) and other than answers I’m going home-made for stronger source control. I’m not discrediting the value of these resources. Many are wonderful and extremely convenient. They also help a LOT of people make the transition. It’s very important however to be sure it’s coming from high quality meats. Here are two links for more info on these companies that may help in choosing one.

Best Raw Dog Foods

Raw Dog Food Reviews

The journey continues…

One thing I am obsessed with is quality. This is the reason my journey was so difficult. It doesn’t have to be this hard, I just refused to compromise. If I was going to learn raw feeding, I was going to learn how to do it right and if I was going to learn all that, I wasn’t willing to use sources that I didn’t trust absolutely! Human Grade didn’t cut it. The meat industry is FULL of horrible profit based practices. They are inhumane and I am not willing to support that.

I am a vegetarian, so ethical farming is of huge importance to me, plus it’s the highest quality of meat.

The grocery stores and even Whole Foods might be ok for finding some organic meats but ultimately I wanted better. My first stop was finding a local organic farm. I did this by using a service online called Eatwild.com . This is not the only search engine, just one I came across that had good results for where I live. I found one small farm right away, but they only sold meat a few times per year and weren’t selling at the moment. I ordered some for the end of the year but ultimately it was a dead end. Some hours and google searches later, I found a local seller who worked at one farm but traveled and sold from a network of organic farmers. This made their resource list HUGE and their ability to supply a year round operation. I was beyond excited about this and blown away by the fact that they had organs and bones on their lists!! One might think this meant that my search was over lol but I’m never satisfied, so I kept looking for a secondary source for certain cuts that were more specific to my dog’s needs. (I could get chicken bones from this seller for example but no other bones that were a good match for my dog’s size.) The biggest benefit from this is that by casting a wider net I have a better chance of getting high quality things. I enjoyed the people I met at this small farm very much and I think human quality is always better, but I didn’t get to see the animals or other farms. I trust them but these are just the best farms in proximity to where I live, so I wanted a wider net for more reasons than just the cut choices.

I tried to google “best raw food suppliers” but as you know if you’ve ever googled something looking for unbiased reviews or truth about a product, it’s an unlikely thing to find directly. First you need patience, then you need to sift through all the nonsense, fake reviews and huge amounts of MONEY put into making certain companies come up first. Once you do that, you might actually get somewhere.

It took hours but I finally stumbled onto something useful by reading the comments section in a blog thread of the Dog Food Advisors chat forum. (I forgot to mention why I didn’t do this with raw meat for humans: 1. They didn’t have cuts any different from my local supplier and 2. They rarely ship and if they did I couldn’t afford it) I followed the discussion by real unbiased people who had real experience trying certain companies and shared my sourcing concerns. I took some notes and then proceeded to look up each company one by one. My conclusion to all of this was that while it IS hard to find true transparency, it’s not impossible. I ended up learning a lot about meat also. Everyone’s pretty much heard of “grass-fed, steroid, antibiotic and hormone free” but denatured and irradiated were two new terms for me that made me really re-evaluate what I wanted to know about my meat. I’m not going to get too much into it but basically Denatured means it’s been made “safe” and the USDA requires this of all “compromised” (3 and 4D for example which stands for “dying, diseased, disabled or dead”) meat. It’s considered too dangerous for human consumption until it goes through a process usually done with charcoal and other dangerous additives that get rid of diseases the meat may contain (not including many chemical drugs that the animal may have been treated with however) but have horrible side effects. Irradiation is similar but it’s done to preserve (salts, and yes, RADIATION etc). BOTH are horrible for dogs so I wanted to add these to my list of requirements. (These links provide great info on both!) The problem with this is, because they’re less known words, “unaltered” may in fact mean these things but I wanted a source that had more clarification than this. (Plus a raw food company that uses 3 or 4D denatured meat will say it’s USDA approved NOT that it’s 3/4D OR made from from certain farm animals fed this, or affected by the contamination in their food as a byproduct of this, which is another big deal… so it’s important to clarify!) Almost all kibble comes from these sources. The USDA’s guidelines when it comes to this are notoriously lax and continued abuse of the system takes place, especially where marketing is concerned. Getting clarification has become something we as consumers unfortunately have to do on our own. There was only one company that I’ve found so far that did this completely.

What I will say is that out of the companies I looked at, they have one of the worst web sites and their packaging is “lame” but I see this as one of their biggest advantages in my book. It means they’re not spending oodles of money on “selling” and to me the people who do are usually trying to sell an inferior product because they’re making more of a profit and that allows for the marketing budget. I know this is cynical and NOT always true but it seems to be a consistent thing in this particular industry. They also had the smallest selection and I even liked THIS because it means they’re not outsourcing or accepting lower quality products just to sell more. They say it’s all local and this proves it really is. One more thing that I liked was customer service. I scoured their face book page and they had only one or two negative comments (shipping related of course) but they responded and went above and beyond to refund. Plus the fact that they had a review option matters because many companies now just don’t even ALLOW it! And their website was “nice” no rules or saying things like “if you order too little your order will be deleted and refunded!” Just things put in a rude way for no reason. Plus they had PHOTOS of the farm all over… not just cute staged dogs everywhere! If I’m ordering from a farm I want to see the FARM animals not dogs on a photo shoot. But I digress… lol Anyway, I liked these people. All of the companies I looked into had pros and cons but these guys are number one on my list because my only “cons” are in selection and shipping costs. It’s unrelated to quality so to me it doesn’t really count. I just can’t order from them all the time. Because of that I’ll follow this link with my reviews of the other sources I found.

1. My pet Carnivore

The next two companies I interrogated come in at a tie because I really think they’re very comparable but one is right by my house so it’s second on my list ONLY for that reason.

2. Raw Feeding Miami

The pros of this one is that they are the only one with organic options. They also have a key word search where you can specify things like “grass fed” so although all their meat may not be grass fed they have a huge inventory and are honest about was is an what isn’t. Because of this they have cheaper options and a slightly lower shipping cost. There are also no minimum orders! I can tell you also that I visited the distribution center. It was briefly last year before I moved and we didn’t stick with it at the time but I met the employees and tried their products. They really seemed to care and it was a positive enough experience for me to order from them again for sure!

3. Reel Raw

This company in my opinion is very similar to raw feeding Miami. They have a larger amount of grass-fed options (I think they say it’s all grass fed) but no organic. I may try an order from them but I’m out of freezer space so I unfortunately can’t review them after trying them just yet. They seemed slightly vague about their sources but very adamant about them being grass fed and unaltered. I want to trust the qualities represented by both of these companies, I just wish there was a little more clarification. My carnivore even tells you what farm! These two will be on my back up list however just because their inventory lists are so huge!

4. Hare Today Gone Tomorrow

This company is only very slightly below the other two. My only qualm was once again having to do with sourcing. Just not enough info. Great info, just not enough about the meat. They have minimum orders but it’s only 10 lbs so shipping is comparable to the other sites. The one thing they had going for them was very good reviews. People really seemed to like the freshness and quality, and there’s a lot to be said for that! I’m keeping them on the list because the vagueness could be an oversight and I might be able to find out more if I emailed them.

I plan on emailing these last two companies to see if I can find out the missing source info. As soon as I do I will post it, I just didn’t want to wait to share something that might be valuable. When I get there I’ll put it in a linked post.

All of the companies mentioned also have ready-to-go options which is great for time saving. It’s not accepted by some raw feeders but some people really need this option and I love that they provide that! They also have good selections of (size appropriate) raw meaty bones, organs, whole prey etc that some local small farms may not and many offer high quality supplements also!

Whew! So that was my last 2 days lol! As always, in doing this I came across some fringe benefit info.

If you’re looking for a good green tripe source, at least one of the top 3 companies have organic, but THIS organic really impressed me!

GreenTripe.com

I’ve contacted them to see if they’ll ship to me. Still haven’t heard and they won’t show you prices until you email them but it looks like an awesome source for that so I’ll also let you know when I find out more about it!

Update: they would not ship to me so I still don’t have prices but they do have an east coast distributor at Green Cuisine 4 Pets

* finally got prices… only about $4/lb but minimum order is 20 lb and shipping is $30 or more PLUS a $13 service fee… so out of my price range. Customer service gave me one other option of picking it up but it requires a two hour drive. I appreciate that they did offer that though so that’s a good thing to know. We’ll still try to get it at some point. (Plus they have a lot more than just green tripe by itself.)

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention

CO-OPS! They’re not available by me or I would have absolutely gone there first! It’s basically a group of people who buy in bulk. They are formed when demand creates the supply. People get together and order from suppliers (a lot of which are just for human clients but cater to these requests). They tend to have the highest quality and are local enough that they send trucks to delivery points where your group can collect its purchases. I don’t know a ton about them because I don’t have the option but I’ve heard the most positive feedback on sources and prices from this option.

Here is one link that has more info and links to a co-op directory

Co-Op Directory

One final website that may help find local meat is Food Fur Life

It’s slightly redundant but it may have some other options.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day this whole endeavor is a learning process. I don’t think it ever will (or should) end. I’ve shared my findings so far but I know there’s a TON I haven’t found yet. My game plan is to use as much local meat as I can. I’ve ordered from my pet carnivore and raw feeding Miami for the things I can’t get. I’ll cast a wide net and try to get the best of what each has to offer. We’ll keep trying with Answers also, for at least occasional feeding and supplementation. Not putting all of my eggs in one basket gives me options because anything can happen, companies close or get bought out so I like knowing that I have knowledge to fall back on. When I get more confident I’ll share recipes and feeding requirement info as well. This process has been a little frustrating but very enlightening. I look forward to learning more and thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope it’s helpful and I wish you all the best in happiness and health for you and your pet!!